Best-of-3 format in wild-card round presents new roster questions, decisions for teams

The Cubs are weighing whom to include on their pitching staff.
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(670 The Score) MLB’s best-of-three format in the wild-card round will create roster questions and decisions that teams haven’t encountered in past years.

One notable question is how many starting pitchers to include on the 28-man roster. As an example, Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana is trying to build up his pitch count and durability after missing most of the season with injuries. Quintana threw 34 pitches in working two innings in a loss to the Pirates on Tuesday, and he’s set to start against the White Sox on Sunday in the Cubs’ regular-season finale. Wild-card round rosters must be submitted Monday.

With manager David Ross and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy both strongly indicating that veteran left-hander Jon Lester would start a potential win-or-go-home Game 3 in the opening round, how many more starting pitchers are needed? A traditional starting pitcher could be left off in favor of a reliever. On the other hand, teams could piggyback starters and have an even quicker leash than usual in pulling a struggling pitcher.

"I really think the three-game series is different from the five and seven,” Ross said.

“There is a potential to save pitching (in a best-of-five or best-of-seven) if the game goes one way or another. In a three-game series though, I don't know if you will ever take your foot off of the gas. Yes, there will be a balance in the arms we take as opposed to the other two divisional series. We are looking at all those things in order to shape out our roster.”

On the Mully & Haugh Show on Wednesday morning, Hottovy mentioned right-hander Alec Mills and right-hander Adbert Alzolay as two options the Cubs could use out of their bullpen early in the playoffs. The team will be certain to have length out of their bullpen, Ross said, and both of those pitchers could provide that.

“We will have some depth in the bullpen with guys who have started,” Ross said. “The thing is that you try to give a clean inning (to a conventional starter in relief) and use a reliever to clean up a dirty inning. We did that last night with Kyle Ryan cleaning up and Adbert starting the next inning.”

A likely path for Quintana could be to sit out the wild-card round and instead pitch a simulated game in the days after his start this coming Sunday. That would let him build up his pitch count more and be ready for a bigger workload if the Cubs advance to the National League Division Series, which is a best-of-five format.